The U.S. women’s soccer team is one of the most dominant forces in sports. Their men’s equivalent doesn’t come close to their level of prestige. But things may be changing. Christian Pulisic is a Hershey, Pennsylvania native. And he is the best hope for American men’s soccer in decades.
But to execute his trade at a high level, Pulisic has made Europe his temporary home — in countries where pandemic lockdowns are much tighter than they’ve been in the United States.
A U.S. men’s soccer star capable of taking on the world’s best
Pulisic broke out with German soccer club Borussia Dortmund in the 2015-2016 season. He became the youngest non-German to score two goals in Bundesliga, according to Fox Sports. It was enough to get scouts paying more attention to American men’s soccer, to try and find the next player on his level.
In 2019, the rapidly rising American star decided to try his hand at Premier League soccer. With Chelsea F.C., he sought to follow up on a lifelong dream to play in the league. They bought out the remaining 18 months of his contract, allowing Pulisic to play in a league with a higher profile in the English-language world.
His first year was a continuation of his Bundesliga success, with a hat trick early on against Burnley FC. It wasn’t a breakout moment that took soccer fans off guard like his Bundesliga debut. But his quick adjustment to Premier League expectations made him an instant favorite.
ESPN reports that Pulisic’s second year with Chelsea has been something of a struggle. His slow recovery from a hamstring injury has left him unable to reach his previous heights on the pitch.
Christian Pulisic’s soccer dreams required splitting up his family
Pulisic’s rapid rise in Bundesliga and Premier League FCs came at a great personal cost. Bundesliga’s official website spells out the sacrifices required for an American with Pulisic’s talent to find the level of competition he needed.
At 16, he was offered to play with Borussia Dortmund’s youth squad, the best possible path forward. But it required uprooting himself from Hershey, Pennsylvania, to live in Germany. His family had to split in two, to avoid disrupting his sister’s academic life. Pulisic’s father went to Germany to oversee his son’s rapid ascent to professional soccer.
The culture shock, alongside the language barrier, kept the two isolated from the community they lived in. Pulisic took up video games as a hobby, and developed an intensive workout regimen that ate up much of his free time.
COVID-19 has returned Pulisic to familiar circumstances
In a recent GQ profile, Pulisic explained that his history with isolation makes quarantine lockdowns a familiar enough experience. He reverted to his old habit of longer workouts and playing games like PGA Tour 2K21 and FIFA 21. He credits his faith, as well, with helping him cope with loneliness.
Pulisic told Showsport that his increasing religious practice in recent years has helped him immensely during the pandemic. “My faith in God has grown significantly in the past year, especially since I’m here alone,” the American midfielder said. “I feel like there’s always someone around me.”
He has enough on his plate to keep him busy when he isn’t at home, thankfully. The Independent reports that struggles from several of his teammates have given him breathing room to get back on track in 2021. With just one goal to his name this season, Pulisic is hungry to prove that his injury is behind him.